This drawing has traditionally been categorised as an unengraved design for the Liber Studiorum; it is one of the least developed of such drawings, does not obviously relate to any of Turner’s topographical studies, and is as sketchy as the wash beginnings in the Studies for Liber sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CXV). It is perhaps intended as a twilight study, as there are two alternative crescent moons above the trees on the left – one drawn and one reserved – while the reserved and washed-out form, apparently of a sailing boat, to the left of the bridge accentuates the wistful mood. There may be an echo of Turner’s 1805 watercolour sketches of barges on the Thames at Isleworth (for example Tate D05784; Turner Bequest XCIII 11)
The work once formed a single sheet with Tate D40045 (Turner Bequest CXVIII h);1 the top edges of the respective compositions met, and were separated by freehand cutting. The border of the wash laid in for the sky on this ‘half’ is visible along the uneven, matching top edge of the other work. A pencil line extending up the left-hand edge of this sheet continues on the other drawing; thin, vertical stains about a quarter of the way in from each edge also continue onto the other sheet. These must pre-date their separation, either by Turner, or early on following their arrival at the National Gallery as part of the Turner Bequest, as the present work was allocated a number and generic title by 1909 (although Finberg’s Inventory of that year somehow omitted the other ‘half’). The present work is here provisionally dated by association with the span suggested for the latter by Ian Warrell,2 although the looseness of its handling renders further speculation difficult.
It is one of five unfinished compositions which were grouped at the end of the 1911 Miniature Edition of reproductions of the Liber, as suggestions (probably by W.G. Rawlinson, who gave ‘generous help and advice all through’3) for a ‘no.101??’ to bring the series up to the frontispiece plus a full twenty parts, each comprising five engravings. The others are Tate D08101, D08185, D08186 and D40045 (Turner Bequest CXV 48, CXVIII e, f, h).